It is my sincere hope that the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) shows the same ferocity over the Ryan-Budget proposal that they did over the contraceptive mandate. If we as a Church are to in one breath claim a need for religious liberty, our next breath should certainly be used to stand up for the religion we hope to be protecting.
Chairman of the House Budget Committee, Paul Ryan, opens his “Path to Prosperity” budget proposal with: “This budget, The Path to Prosperity, heeds America’s political, economic, and moral imperatives by confronting the nation’s most urgent ﬁscal challenges.” I wouldn’t have been so confused with his plan if Paul Ryan, a Catholic, didn’t play the morality card.
In a letter to Congress on the budget in 2011 the USCCB reminded us of an important point, “The moral measure of this budget debate is not which party wins or which powerful interests prevail, but rather how those who are jobless, hungry, homeless or poor are treated. Their voices are too often missing in these debates, but they have the most compelling moral claim on our consciences and our common resources.” The Bishops are so right—it’s often easy to get caught up in partisan victories when we should instead be standing for the principals we hold.
The Path to Prosperity shows a total disregard to the poor and marginalized. This budget is the next step in the Republican plan to dismantle Medicare and Medicaid—putting Medicaid into a block grant program and privatizing Medicare for those 55 and younger. As if dismantling our senior’s healthcare plan wasn’t enough, the budget goes further by cutting the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program by 17% over the next decade. In total, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the Ryan Budget gets 62 perfect of its proposed cuts from low-income programs including Medicaid, Pell grants, food stamps and job training.
This budget isn’t about Democrat or Republican, it is about what we as a society choose to use our resources on and how we choose to care for the least among us. Uncomfortable though it may make us, the budget is inherently a moral document.
How can we believe the Republican Budget Committee is heeding our moral imperatives when they go against precisely what we preach—clothe the naked, feed the hungry, shelter the homeless?
As Catholics, we need to ensure that our society is ordered in a way to better serve the vulnerable. We either need to accept that the Ryan Budget’s “survival of the fittest” approach serves as our definition of morality, or we need to take legitimate political for those most in need of service. Now more than ever, our political action must be motivated by a simple reminder from Proverbs: “He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.”